Town hall on gun violence is tomorrow

Event takes place at 7 at Rosehill; will have three panels
By Brandon Gustafson | Apr 25, 2018
Sarah Kneller, Mukilteo City Councilmember

Students at Mukilteo schools have made it abundantly clear they hope for more conversations about school safety and gun violence.

The students have staged walkouts and organized rallies, and have participated in marches in Seattle and Everett.

Now, the city of Mukilteo is hosting a town hall discussion on gun violence and school safety at Rosehill Community Center (304 Lincoln Ave.) at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 26.

Mukilteo City Councilmember Sarah Kneller organized the forum.

“I reached out to my fellow councilmembers and the mayor to find out if this was something that was of interest in having the city support,” Kneller said. “I had many people in the community approach me about having something like this happen, and I had to see if this would be a city function or if I would need to do this with some community members. Ultimately, I had the support of the majority of the council and the mayor.”

Kneller said the town hall will be a three-part discussion, with various speakers covering the topics.

The three panels will be on mental health, school safety, and policy.

Rena Fitzgerald, a Crisis Services Senior Program Manager for Volunteers of America,

Cynthia Jolly, a Mental Health Services Psychotherapist, and Catherine Person, a Washington State Survivor Engagement Lead, will lead the panel on mental health.

Mukilteo Police Chief Cheol Kang, Mukilteo School Board President John Gahagan, Kamiak Principal Mike Gallagher, and Kamiak ASB President Ketta Davis will be leading the discussion on school safety.

Sen. Marko Liias, Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson, Rep. Strom Peterson, and Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell will lead a discussion on gun policies.

“We’ve never had all these kinds of people with their expertise in one place at the same time,” Kneller said. “It’s really powerful and unique. They’re all focusing their talents on one set of core issues.”

Many people have reached out to Kneller during her time on the council about having a forum like this. She said many of them brought up the same points, which helped lead her to organizing the forum.

“People want an opportunity to ask questions to the people up on stage. People want to learn what they can do and about what’s going on. People want to know what resources are available and what policies are out there that they should support or oppose.”

Mukilteo City Councilmember Richard Emery and Council Vice President Christine Cook played an important part in helping Kneller organize the town hall.

“He’s very well connected with people in emotional services groups, and Christine Cook is the council’s liaison for the Snohomish County Health Board,” Kneller said. “Through that, I was able to get in touch with key people. It was nice because sometimes I’d call someone and they’d say, ‘I’m not the right person for what you’re looking for, but I know who is,’ so they’d help get me in contact with the correct people. It’s awesome that people are concerned with helping us get the most and best information to our residents.”

Kneller said organizing a forum like this comes naturally to her.

“Fundamentally, it’s just in my nature. I can’t sit back and not do something,” Kneller said. “There are lots of reasons to be invested in the future of our community. We have a great opportunity because our community is passionate, and our council and mayor are supportive. The timing is perfect. Momentum is picking up across the U.S.”

Kneller said she knows nobody has the correct answer to stop gun violence and school shootings, but forums like this are important in order to facilitate conversation.

“We have a very involved student population, and we’re utilizing what we can with the Mukilteo Youth Coalition and the Mukilteo Youth Advisory Committee,” Kneller said. “A lot of those students are involved in conversations with current policy makers. They also have personal reasons to come.”

In addition to Davis, who will be helping with the school safety discussion, Kamiak junior Niko Battle, who has helped organize walkouts and marches in relation to gun violence and school safety, will serve as the night’s moderator. Kneller said over 30 students from Kamiak and Mariner High School’s Key Clubs have said they’ll be attending the forum.

Most councilmembers should be in attendance, Kneller said, and she feels it’s important that none of them are on the panels.

“This is an opportunity for our council to listen and learn, not a time for us to talk,” Kneller said.

A 2015 Kamiak grad, who was friends with Jake Long, one of the three murdered in the 2016 shooting in Mukilteo, and is currently deployed in the military, reached out to Kneller to support the forum.

“People are passionate about making sure future generations don’t go through what they went through,” Kneller said. “I hope we can have productive, focused conversations, and people will come with open minds and that they want to build the community. Let’s come together and find proactive solutions.”

Kneller feels even though a lot of the talks will be focused on school safety, that those in the community with no ties to the Mukilteo School District should still attend the forum.

“The effects of gun violence are far reaching beyond our schools. They ripple through our whole society,” Kneller said. “It’s about having a conversation at an important and critical time. This gives everyone a chance to voice their thoughts. Being in the community doesn’t stop when your kids graduate from high school.”

Kneller is unsure about attendance from adults in the community, but she hopes it’s a strong turnout.

“To the adults: let’s show up for the kids,” Kneller said.


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